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Maurizio Viroli

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198780885

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198780885.001.0001

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The Power of Words

The Power of Words

(p.73) 3 The Power of Words

Maurizio Viroli

Oxford University Press

This chapter points out that all the political works of Machiavelli follow the manner of a rhetorician. He did not write to explain a scientific or moral truth, but to persuade and impel to act. This chapter gives evidence on the tradition of political rhetoric and the rhetorical structure of The Prince. Machiavelli grew up in a city pervaded by the cult of eloquence, which was considered the highest ornament of political life. In The Prince his training in oration is revealed by the good rhetorical quality of the text and the diligent application of the rules of deliberative rhetoric. The chapter also explains Machiavelli's use of grand examples to draw attention and persuade people. He also made use of history as an example, not only as a source of political wisdom but also to incite men to do what must be done. Lastly, the chapter argues that Machiavelli's style of writing is a powerful example of the possibility of practicing political theory in an attractive manner.

Keywords:   rhetoric, The Prince, oration, history, eloquence, political theory

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